In 1899, on this day The Morning Post's war correspondent Winston Churchill (pictured left and below, right) sneaked out of the Pretoria High School for Girls where Boer Free Staters had locked up the surviving members of the Chieveley raid. The twenty-five year old aristocrat vaulted a wall behind the latrines and waited in an outer garden before making good his escape.
Death of a Little Bit of a NewspapermanFearing that a successful jail-break would be showcased in the British media as dashing adventurism, a price of twenty-five pounds was put on his head. Yet a more balanced view was taken by the Commandant of the Boer Forces, General Joubert. He actually offered less cash reward (27 shillings) for Churchill's recapture than the British officers were paying for a bottle of Scotch. "He is just 'n klein koerant-skrywertjie (a little bit of a newspaperman)" he said dismissing Churchill.
"Englishman 25 years old about 5 foot 8 inches tall medium build walks with a slight stoop. Pale features. Reddish-brown hair almost invisible small moustache. Speaks through his nose and cannot pronounce the letter S. Had last a brown suit on and cannot speak one word of Dutch. " - Boer Police ReportMeanwhile Churchill had stowed away on a coal train heading east in the direction of Mozambique. Desperate with hunger by the time the train stopped at Clewer, he knocked on a carriage door in search of food. The door was opened by John Howard, the manager of the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Colliery. Howard agree to hide Churchill in the underground stables of the mine, and then later behind some packing cases in the office.
With Boer forces searching high and low, Howard hid Churchill under coal sacks on a train and attempted to smuggle him across the border into neutral territory. Despite Howard's willingness to bribe guards at numerous points of discovery, their luck finally ran out at Komati Poort, the station at the boundary between the Transvaal and Portuguese East Africa. A close search of the train revealed Churchill, who had been surviving entirely on chocolate.
Two days after his second arrest, the British consul at Delagoa Bay sent a telegram to the British Foreign Office containing the coded phrase "Goods lost in transit". The next day the front page of the Morning Post carried a feature article on the cowardly Churchill, who, by making a solitary escape, had prevented his combatant colleagues from making a general attempt.Most shocking of all, perhaps, amongst the surviving members of the Chieveley raid was an aristocratic North West frontier acquaintenance, Captain Haldane who later published a reputation destroying account of Churchill's misdeeds